I have to say writing this wasn’t easy.
The countless amounts of times I’ve written something, scribbled it out, wrote something new, and then scribbled it out again.
If it’s not Channel 4 portraying us as the Undateables, it’s the BBC making a big fuss about how being ‘oh so short’ is unbelievably unheard of.
Yes, having a disability can be challenging, just like being a single parent or juggling 3 jobs, but it’s something that is managed by millions.
We just want to be treated like normal, everyday people, because we are.
So how do I convince you that dating someone with a disability, doesn’t have to be difficult? (despite what the media says)
Well, I can’t really do that, but what I can do is tell you the truth. So hence forth I, Blessing Odukoya solemnly swear to you, the readers, the truth, the whole truth and nothing, but the truth – clearly I’ve been watching a bit too much Suits.
The best way to begin would be for me to tell you that I’m a wheelchair user and I have been since I was born. Having lived with a disability from the day birth forces you to adapt to certain things, yet there are still other things that I haven’t really adapted too…yet.
Take having a disability for example, I haven’t necessarily adapted to this just yet. Yes, I was born with it, that doesn’t necessarily mean I always remember I have one. This basically means that I say strange things that seem out of character. For instance, I could be in H&M standing at the back of a long queue and because of my disability I get to jump straight to the front – by law – and I’ll utter something like “The perks of being disabled, come shopping with me and you don’t have to wait in long queues.”
People either give me strange looks or there’s just an awkward silence. To other people it sounds like I’m talking bad about myself, but in all honesty is just something I normally do. Normal. Something everyone seems to forget. The same way someone might say the perks of being an only child is that you don’t have to share things, having a disability has its perks too. It’s not all bad.
To all my disabled people out there be happy with who you are, nothing is unfortunate. Even if you used to be able to do something and now you can’t, it just means you have to find a cooler way of doing it again. So rule number one when dating someone with a disability? We are Normal.
I think the weirdest thing I’ve come across is when someone is trying to approach to ask questions about my disability. This is perfectly fine to do. I’m at a point in my life where I’m comfortable with who I am. But to be honest, most of us – other people with disabilities – are quite open about how we ended with our different disabilities, and by asking questions it shows you care, which is an attractive quality – I’d rather you asked than made your own assumptions.
However, know when to stop or when a question is too intrusive. It’s wonderful that you want to know all about our disability, but there is a lot more to a person than their disability so get to know the other things about them too. Just like other people we have hobbies, interests and skills, there may be certain things we can’t do, but there is a lot we still can.
One of the many things I’m trying to learn to do this year, is not see my disability as such a burden. Unfortunately, this might have been inflicted on me by society, but it’s definitely something I’m trying to shake. Sometimes, when someone approaches me with a genuine interest, I find it hard to believe. But like many young people I’m building on my self-esteem daily.
Occasionally, I tend to overthink things – but I’m working on it – I guess we all need a little nudge to have more confidence in ourselves and abilities. Physically, I might find certain things challenging, but thankfully there are provisions made for me and other who face physical challenges.
Wheel chair ramps to building and buses allow me to gain access easily, stair lifts and lift services at stations on the the underground allow me to access public transport and not rely on cabs or cars to drive me around as well as allocated seating on public transport. Initially adjusting to these provisions can be hard, but as they say practice makes perfect.
A lot of the time people with disabilities don’t use public services because they are conscious that they might be seen as slowing people down or relying on others for help. I am able to access a sanitary services, get myself on to the bus and into building, it may take a little longer but I can still do these things. Most of time people are friendly and understanding, but occasionally we receive comments that are not so nice. So as a disabled person I would encourage you to be mindful of our daily physical challenges we face, you helping us, strengthens or confidence, we all need support and words of encouragement sometimes.
Only recently has the mainstream depicted stories of disabled people in relationships, which makes it seems as though before now we just sat around twiddling our thumbs. RUBBISH. We do love, we can love and we are loved – by many. Like all women – people in fact – we have standards preferences. Being disabled doesn’t mean we accept anything or anyone who comes our way.
We won’t settle for abuse, discrimination or straight up nasty people. Who would? Just like everyone else we have likes, dislikes and most importantly the right to be in a healthy and happy relationships. This isn’t just for those who are disabled, but for anyone who is in or has just left a relationship that just wasn’t working. Remember you are beautiful so if it doesn’t work out with one, hold your head up high and as Jay Z says ‘On to the next one…’. Soon enough, someone better will catch your eye. (Stay positive, it also makes you look prettier and happier which is essential.)
Another big one for me is keep your prejudices at home! If you’re talking to me and we’re in an engaging in conversation and I think you’re nice both physically and personality wise, there is nothing worse than in the midst of a conversation you decide that now is the right time to say “I always thought disabled people would be…..” unless we are having a distinct conversation about disabilities or something along those lines, it is almost certain that whatever is going to follow that sentence will be something I will find insulting or irritating.
We are human, so we are naturally prejudice, judgmental and all the rest of it. But don’t embarrass me or yourself by revealing yours about the disabled community.
I hope this piece as helped you understand some of the challenges we in the disabled community face as well as some of my own bugbears. So, in summary, remember when dating a disabled person; we are normal, ask questions, give a push where appropriate, we have standards and keep prejudices to yourself and i’m sure we’ll get along just fine, just normal!